Tell us about something that happened today in history, and make it relate to current science.
Felix Baumgartner, the Austrian skydiver attempting to break several frreefall records, has lifted off from Roswell, New Mexico and is ascending into the stratosphere and beyond as I write. The helium balloon that's lifting him upward is, right now, nearing 100,000 feet at a rate of about 15 feet/second. He hopes to reach 120,000 and then leave the capsule for about a 10 minute jump back to Earth. Half of that time will be spent in freefall. That's all I know. You can watch a delayed webcast of it at the BBC website.
The SpaceX rocket lifted off today from a launch pad at Cape Canaveral, Florida, becoming the first commercial flight to the International Space Station and marking the beginning of a new era of space exploration. Read about it here.
Courtesy Mark RyanTonight there will be what is known as a Blue Moon. It's not an astronomical event but rather a calendrical one and occurs when two full moons happen in the same month. This kind of thing happens about every 2.7 years and doesn't have anything to do with the color of the moon. You won't see any blue tinge on the night orb tonight unless a nearby volcano has spewed ash laden with cobalt into the atmosphere. The first full moon this month was back on August 2nd. The last blue moon we had was in December of 2009 and the next won't happen until July of 2015, so you might as well out there and enjoy this one. This kind of event only happens once in a blue moon.
Blue Moon Calendar
In 1945, a US warplane dropped the first atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Three days later the US dropped another nuclear bomb on the city of Nagasaki. The bombings led to Japan's surrender and the cessation of World War II. I seem to post about this each year, so you can find more details here.
Courtesy NASA via WikipediaToday, Neil Armstrong, the first human to walk on the Moon, celebrates his 82nd birthday. Armstrong was born in Wapakoneta, Ohio on this day in 1930. Some thirty-eight years later, in July of 1969, Armstrong and two other US astronauts, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins traveled to the Moon in the Apollo 11 spacecraft. As Collins orbited the Moon in the command service module (CSM), the other two crew members descended to the surface in the lunar module (LM). After successfully landing on the Sea of Tranquility, Armstrong climbed down the LM ladder and took his historic first step onto the surface at 2:56 UTC July 21, 1969. Aldrin joined Armstrong about 20 minutes later, and the two astronauts spent the next 2-1/2 hours of the mission investigating the lunar surface, setting up science-gathering equipment, and collecting rock and soil samples, before blasting off the surface to rejoin Collins for the return trip to Earth.
Courtesy Mark Ryan CollectionIn 1879, on the High Plains of Wyoming Territory, fieldworker William Harlow Reed discovered the first bones of a nearly complete dinosaur skeleton that Yale paleontologist Othniel Marsh would eventually name Brontosaurus excelsus. Arthur Lakes (another of Marsh's fieldworkers) made a watercolor portraying Reed (right) and helper Edward Ashley sitting among the sauropod's bones at Como Bluff's Quarry #10 (scroll to bottom of link page see the painting). More about the discovery can be found here. The mounted skeleton still stands at Yale's Peabody Museum in New Haven, Connecticut.
"The nation has lost one of its finest leaders, teachers and explorers. Our thoughts and prayers are with Sally's family and the many she inspired. She will be missed, but her star will always shine brightly."
Story on MSNBC website
On this day in 1969, two American astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, became the first humans to touch down on and explore the surface the Moon. Relive the actual lunar module landing (juxtaposed with panorama imagery from LRO data) in the above video. Also, learn more about all the Apollo Program and missions leading up to and following Apollo 11's historic landing forty-three years ago.
It's taken nearly 50 years, but scientists at Europe's CERN have finally announced the detection of the Higgs boson. Earlier this week, rumors were leaking all over the place, but today the discovery has now been confirmed. Well, sort of. The new particle has Higgs-like properties, but further data analysis will be needed to determine if it actually behaves like the predicted Standard Model. Odds are it will.
In 1964, British theoretical physicist Peter Higgs and others, predicted a sub-atomic particle must exist that gives mass to all other particles. His name was tagged to the elusive particle, and ever since then physicists have sought it out, using particle accelerators at both Fermilab near Chicago, and at CERN, where today plenty of celebrating is taking place. Congratulations are in order for the thousands of scientists involved in the quest!